It didn’t come as a surprise when my parents started asking for more help around their house. My mother is 72 and my father is 77, so it’s a testament to their health that they’ve been able to get along on their own for so long. But between long hours at work and taking care of my girls, finding time in the day to get their groceries, clean out their gutters and do a little laundry was harder than my husband and I expected.
So he and I put together a plan to help us help them. Here are a few steps we took to fit everything in without losing our minds:
I knew my parents would be hesitant to own up to everything they needed, so I planned a family meeting to put it all on the table. My husband and I asked what we could do to make their lives easier and let them know that we honestly wanted to help.
After they opened up about the things they were struggling with, we made a list of tasks they’d need done on a weekly and monthly basis. We also found out how often their prescriptions needed to be refilled or renewed. Getting everything on paper in the beginning really helped us make sure nothing important fell through the cracks.
My husband and I take 30 minutes each Sunday to write out a schedule for the upcoming week to help us keep everything straight. We highlight time-sensitive tasks, like doctor’s appointments, and clarify who’s handling each task. We also keep a running list of chores posted on a white board on the fridge. We put an ‘x’ next to each completed task—and when the week is over, we erase them all and start again.
There are usually things my girls can help with, such as dusting and folding laundry, so we bring them along about once a week for some Grandma and Grandpa time. They love having their little chores to conquer and often race to see who can get theirs done first!
Always the homemaker, Mom has quite a collection of floor rugs around the house. But after witnessing a few trips and slips, I saw they were becoming a major risk factor. So, a few months ago, I added non-skid backings to reduce the chance they’d be a liability.
I also check to make sure that high-traffic areas are clear of stray items and power cords, and that any furniture with wheels is locked in position. We’re planning to install handles or railings next to showers, bathtubs and steps for extra stability. Since a fall can mean a long recovery for people their age, you can never be too careful.
Helping your parents retain their independence can be a challenge, but taking proactive steps while they’re still in good health can make all the difference later on. And having a plan in place can help turn a long list of chores into a family bonding experience that you’ll remember for years to come.